March 17, 2016
WICKENBURG, Ariz. — One of the most annoying things coaches hear from players is excuses.
The smart players never go there. They focus on excellence every day of their life in every facet. If they have setbacks in games, they work to get better.
The excuse makers should study David Stevens, one of the most unbelievable baseball players the game has ever witnessed and a young man I had the pleasure of interviewing during in the 1982 season.
He played baseball without legs.
The Wickenburg High School (Arizona) sophomore was a thalidomide baby, born with stumps instead of legs.
At the age of 16-year, he participated in several sports, including baseball, by running on the palms of his hands and his leg stubs, one a misshapen foot with two toes, the other several inches of fused toes.
It goes without saying that he played with moxie and pain — with the determination of a lion.
His story could have been tragic, but David’s indomitable spirit, to the amazement of everyone he knows, lifted him to remarkable deeds.
At birth, he was given a slim chance of living without brain damage.
He defied the odds. His mother, believed to be 15 or 16 years of age at the time, abandoned David in a Phoenix hospital.
Fortunately, a loving couple by the name of Bill and Bee Stevens adopted young David at the hospital.
David looks back on those days without any animosity toward his birth mother. He still would like to meet her some day.
This 16-year-old sophomore played baseball and other sports with a zest unequaled anywhere.
That’s because he was just happy to be alive and lived every day like it was his last.
He normally walked on artificial legs. But for sporting events, he used the palms of his hands and his leg stubs to maneuver.
Here is a sample of his athletic drive.
- During the junior varsity football season at Wickenburg H.S., David played nose guard in eight games. He was involved in seven unassisted tackles and one quarterback sack.
- As a first-year wrestler, he registered an amazing 10-11 record.
- He has bench pressed 208 pounds.
- Once during a physical education basketball class, he scored 22 points.
So it’s not a case where coaches or students feel sorry for David. He has legitimate athletic talent.
In varsity baseball games, he is usually put into a contest in the late innings of a tight game because he draws walks.
When home plate umpires saw David bat for the first time, they always had difficulty figuring out his strike zone. But they normally allowed the strike zone to be about an inch above home plate that extended about 16 inches above that since he had no legs.
Stepping to the plate, he used a Louisville Slugger 27 ounce bat that was about 2 ½ feet tall.
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